What could have been just another Republican-initiated spat between Congress and the White House now threatens to expand into the international arena. Speaker of the House John Boehner, in typical crass style, has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a speech about Iran before Congress, without the customary approval of President Obama, and for the purposes of derailing Obama’s plan to reopen negotiations with Iran. It would be one thing if Boehner had invited some crackpot congressperson or a foreign policy expert to derail Obama’s plan, but inviting a foreign leader to do so is a step too far even for the Republicans.
Obama has turned down meeting with Netanyahu while he’s in town, as part of his long-standing public policy of not meeting with any world leader in the run-up to their election. The reason for this policy is to prevent looking like the U.S. is “putting our thumbs on the scale” and interfering with the democratic process abroad. But behind the scenes, evidence suggests some of Obama’s team have touched down in Tel Aviv to do just that.
According to Haaretz, five Democratic consultants and Obama strategist Jeremy Bird are working with various opposition campaigns to unseat Netanyahu when Israeli voters head to the polls on March 17th. While no evidence suggests Obama approved this measure, having people in Israel with ties to the White House could prove to be yet another delicious scandal for Republican wing-nuts. Indeed, Ted Cruz and Lee Zeldin have already written to John Kerry about the matter.
What’s most striking about this, aside from the near act of treason by Boehner, is why this tipping point didn’t come sooner for the White House. After Israel’s latest terror campaign against the Palestinian people, Operation Protective Edge, over 2,100 people were dead, 500 of them children. Human rights groups investigated and concluded not only that Israel showed a “callous indifference” to civilian life, but concluded that Israel deliberately targeted civilians in their own homes.
Surely this would be enough to leave a bad taste in Obama’s mouth, and yet it wasn’t. At the time, Obama reiterated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself, paying only lip service to the Palestinian people, and of course, rightfully condemning Hamas. But the straw that broke the camel’s back is Netanyahu’s visit to Congress, which has the potential to threaten Obama’s long fight to bring Iran back to the negotiating table.
If Obama has really grown tired of Netanyahu, and linked operatives really are trying to oust him, the President has the perfect chance to turn his back on the poor treatment of Palestinians once and for all. Right now, Obama is making polite excuses for not visiting with Netanyahu, but he has the chance to put an end to the Boehner-Netanyahu friendship by exposing Netanyahu for the war criminal he is and by exposing the gross human rights abuses that took place in Gaza last summer.
Not only would this deliver an uncompromising and morally just stance on the Israeli-Palestinian question, it would also make it a lot harder for Boehner and Netanyahu to go through with this shady agreement without considerable scrutiny. Nobody likes a war criminal, at least not in public. While it would be nice for the President to condemn war crimes whenever they occur, Netanyahu’s covert meeting to Congress is the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.